Blog from the Rock

That's me in St John's, Newfoundland. Not a great pic, I know. I've nearly filled a digital camera with craggy beauty but forgot to bring a USB cable and can't share any of it for the time being. I took this with my laptop standing outside a café near where we're staying. It's a residential strip just on the edge of downtown. Got to love the way they paint houses here. Pink, blue, green, yellow, orange. Gray or black occasionally. Everything except beige. Joy!

Anyway, I've only been here a couple days, so maybe I'm making too much out of this, but I'm surprised by how much Regina and St John's have in common. Here's a sampling:
  • Both are small cities. Regina hovering around 200,000. Metro St John's at 182,000.
  • Both are provincial capitals. (And both have humorously named rivals who jealously covet that honor. The hilarious "Saskatoon" in our case. Here they have... um... "Dildo".)
  • Both are purportedly experiencing periods of economic prosperity when compared to their own recent histories and to the rest of the country.
  • In both I keep running into people who talk about how they're hearing there's a boom on but it's not making their lives any easier.
  • Both have urban sprawl problems. (Where in Canada doesn't though?)
  • Both have roads so cracked and pitted they've become a kind of comedy.
  • Both are pretty isolated geographically which means their arts and culture scenes have a goodly homegrown component.
  • The weather here is exactly the same unseasonably cold temperature I left behind in Saskatchewan (although here the humidity is something like 310 percent).
  • Both have independent alternative news and culture papers that are put out bi-weekly. (The prairie dog's Newfoundlander doppleganger is called The Scope.)
Seriously, if it weren't for one or two little things (the hills, the rocks, the lush foliage, the salt air, the ocean, the ships, the Screech, the scrunchions, the Danny Williams, the accent) I'd think I'd never left home.

Music discovery since arriving: local gypsy jazz guitarist Duane Andrews. Wow. Just wow.

There They Go Again

Obama wants universal health care in America. (Guardian) Great. Now we get 18 months of douchebag TV pundits insulting the Canadian system on Fox. Wheee.

Sometimes I Get Asked About Bands For Regina

I don't know why people want my opinion on anything, let alone music, but sometimes they do. Well, here's a band I'd like to see play Regina. It's called Garfunkel And Oates. They're really, really sarcastic and mean. And funny and awesome. Here's their website. And here's the video for their song "Sex With Ducks":

Sex with Ducks from Erika Lindhome on Vimeo.

G&O got a lot of attention a while back for their song "Pregnant Women Are Smug", which is reallyreallyreally mean, and very funny too. You can watch the vid for that here.

Go get 'em, Regina show promoters!

From Anger To Action?

For those of you like me who are staring at the U.S. in horror and fascination after a couple recent political shootings--the murder of a Kansas abortion doctor and the killing of a guard at a holocaust museum--here's a relevant article on Salon by Joan Walsh. Walsh explores the connection between the venom of Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of right-wing television's angry men and the murder of abortion doctors and attacks on holocaust museums.

Here's a longish excerpt:

And there's clearly been an uptick in rhetoric suggesting that white men are having their rights abridged by the Obama administration, especially since his pick of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. In a debate with Buchanan a couple of weeks ago, he told me that what was happening to white men was exactly what happened to black men — he didn't give me any examples of lynching — and that it was open season on white men. Wealthy Sen. Lindsay Graham suggested an average white guy like himself wouldn't get a fair shake from Sotomayor, and now even the new face of the GOP, Michael Steele, has said the same thing. If I were a marginal, unemployed, angry, racist white man right now, I'd be hearing a lot of mainstream conservative support for my point of view. Can that help create a climate for more violence? I don't know. I hope not, but I don't know.

Full story here. Good reading if you're interested in the ongoing psychosis of conservative, white, Christian America.

Regina Rental Market Improves! Ever... So... Slightly

The Leader Post is reporting on recently released CMHC numbers that indicate that Regina's April 2009 vacancy rate has shot up to an astonishing 0.7 percent! Granted, that's down from 1.4 per cent in April of last year. But it veritably towers over the 0.5 percent we had in October. That's a 0.2 percent climb in a mere six months. That means we could have as many as FOUR MORE vacant apartments in the city!

Now, during the latest round of condo conversion applications, it has been argued that conversions should be allowed to go forward because Regina's rental market is recovering. That argument has been based on a fall prediction by the CMHC that we'd reach a 1.2 per cent vacancy rate this year.

But, it would seem that if vacancies keep opening up at the rate these most recent numbers indicate, we'll probably fall short of that. In the office pool, the smart money's on a 1 per cent vacancy rate in CMHC's October report.

Regardless, there is no indication that Regina's vacancy rate will in the near future hit the magic 3 percent that city administration considers the minimum for a healthy rental market.

And yet, the condo conversions continue.

Meanwhile, claiming they have nothing to do with affordable housing, city council refuses to stauch the loss of rental units to condo conversion until a moratorium introduced late last year comes into effect.

Maybe they don't or shouldn't have anything to do with affordable housing. But judging by CMHC numbers, city council policy has a great deal to do with the affordability of housing: the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment has risen from $756 in October 2008 to $786 this April.